NOW Activists Sighted in Memphis

by Virginia Stallworth,
President, Memphis NOW

Memphis, Tenn., Home of the Blues, Birthplace of Rock and Roll, battleground for the civil rights movement, and a city known for its Southern hospitality, is the site of the 1997 National NOW Conference.

Activists from throughout the Mid-South Region are working hard to make sure this election conference July 4-6 at the historic Peabody Hotel is one for the memory books.

The Peabody, "The South's Grand Hotel," will roll out the red carpet not only for its famous Peabody Ducks to waddle across the lobby to their signature fountain, but also for the hundreds of feminists flocking to Memphis. The Peabody is located in the heart of the city, just a few blocks from the mighty Mississippi River and historic Beale Street, home of some of the best Blues music found anywhere.

U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., will join us as a keynote speaker Saturday, July 5. Described as a "liberal firebrand" by The New York Times, McKinney has been a staunch supporter of women's rights and is an outspoken critic of the draconian Republican congressional initiatives instigated by her Georgia neighbor, Newt Gingrich. Her commitment to feminist issues is evident in her strong advocacy on behalf of reproductive rights, the poor and the disenfranchised, and her calls to end violence against women.

McKinney was swept into office in 1992, the "Year of the Woman." When the Supreme Court upheld the dismantling of her majority African American congressional district, NOW/PAC made her re-election a priority. Her 1996 re-election was historical as McKinney became the first African American woman to be elected to Congress from a majority white district in the South. She won with 59 percent of the vote. Because this is an election conference, we know there will be an increased need for playtime. With that in mind, Memphis NOW is scheduling NOW tours of local historical sites and attractions on Thursday, July 3, the day before the conference begins.

Activists can join the "Star Spangled Celebration" featuring live music and fireworks on the banks of the Mississippi July 4, and enjoy some of Memphis' best restaurants, located within easy walking distance of The Peabody.

Imagine Elvis and his Graceland's Jungle Room, with its green shag carpet -- on the floor, walls and ceiling. This image should lighten the mood of even the most hardened activists.

For the tired activist, nothing is as revitalizing as the exhibits at the National Civil Rights Museum commemorating the long struggle by our African American sisters and brothers, or a visit to historical sites such as houses on the Underground Railroad.

And for activists who just want to have fun -- between the work -- there is an abundance of opportunities from Saturday night conference entertainment to gaming at nearby casinos in Tunica, Miss., taking riverboat rides on the Mississippi, touring elegant antebellum mansions or just enjoying a laid-back Southern city.

Of course we are meeting to continue NOW's important work and to elect national officers who will lead our organization into the 21st century. We will continue to craft a mission statement to carry us into the Vision Summit 1998. Some 40 workshops will address a variety of issues and skills important to feminists. We will honor our "Women of Courage" who have taken courageous actions challenging injustice.

It's been more than a decade since a national conference has been held in the Mid-South Region, and we are dedicated to making this conference a success. Since December 1995, we have brainstormed ideas and implemented plans designed to make this a user-friendly conference -- complete with Southern hospitality.

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